The Good Sleep & The Smart Snooze
Current research is depressing – hardly any of us gets enough sleep these days. It turns out the organ most affected by lack of sleep is the brain. Scientists have now identified a correlation between sleep and cognitive performance.
Studies done on students found that good sleep improves the ability to store and consolidate memories, reinforcing the notion that a good night’s sleep and a mid-day power nap is much more conducive to learning than an overnight cram session.
In the study the students were given fact based learning exercises after which one group napped and the other group did not. The students were then given memory tests; those who napped performed 20 percent better than those who didn’t.
The researchers believe that sleep may help clear out a part of the brain called the hippocampus — the brain’s short-term memory storage — and make room for new learning and information. We can compare it to clearing out our inboxes to make room for new messages.
The danger of nodding off and drooling on our shirts increases dramatically at mid-day or about 8 hours after waking up in the morning. This is when both our body and brain want a siesta.
A power nap can give us a mental edge and extra energy to get through the rest of the day. As little as 5 minutes rest can boost productivity and lower stress.
We need a place where we can easily fall asleep, one with limited noise and light and a comfortable temperature. It’s best not to nap too late in the day–it can affect sleeping patterns by making it harder to fall asleep at night.
It’s also good to limit naps. We may want to sleep longer, but research shows that a short nap, around 10-20 minutes, improves short-term alertness, but naps that last longer than 30 minutes make us feel groggy, rather than refreshed.